Reviewer: William Cooling
Story Title: N/A
Written by: Judd Winick
Pencilled by: D. Eaglesham
Inked by: Rodney Ramos
Coloured by: M. Baumann
Lettered by: Kurt Hathaway
Publisher: DC Comics
This review contains spoilers and refers to the TPB edition
Judd Winick has established a reputation for pushing the Liberal Realist view of the world down the throats of comic book fans, with the Green Lantern story Hate Crime often cited as one of the examples. This debate made me interested in looking at this story as (I hope) that my being a pro â€œgay rightsâ€ Conservative would allow me to produce a balanced opinion.
First off the title, Hate Crime is a bad choice if Winick really wants to engage with the conservative readers instead of lecturing them, as any mention of â€œHate Crimeâ€ is likely to jar with most conservatives.
The story itself opens with Terry’s boyfriend David recounting the details of the chase that led up to the attack (the attack had been announced at the end of 153). Whilst there’s nothing wrong with the scene per se I feel that it was mistake to distance the reader from the attack. To really get across what Terry and David went through the reader needed have to been placed at the heart of the attack and actually experienced the fear and hatred.
Also this device is made all the more questionable by the fact that Winick does include two scenes where Kyle goes to town on the attackers. This is indicative of Winick’s whole approach with this story as he places almost his entire emphasis on pro-homosexuality reaction to the attack. This results not only in the attack not being covered in sufficient depth but also the anti-homosexuality viewpoint not being explored enough.
This is also leads to what is my major problem with introducing politics into superhero comics, which is that all too often all it only acts as motivation for the villain with no analysis contained in the piece. Hate Crime suffers from that with neither the attackers’ rationale for the attack (which could range from religion to repressed urges) or Terry’s father’s rationale for being hostile to David being properly developed. If Winick were to achieve his aim of dealing with the issues of homosexuality then the anti-side would have had to be shown in a non-hysterical light. This obviously would be difficult as I agree with Winick, the issue of gay rights, especially in this context is a black and white issue but you only engage with an issue by covering both sides of an issue.
There are positives to Winick’s handling of the gay issue one of the main ones being how he handles the two gay characters as neither is shown to conform to the camp stereotype so beloved of Will & Grace. Another major plus point is that they actually show the two of them kissing. You have no idea how sick I am of seeing shows supposedly breaking down the barriers for homosexuality but remaining queasy about actually showing any signs of the person’s sexuality.
The couple of pages to the wider reaction outside the hospital are well written and may just include a sly dig at politicians who jump on the gay rights bandwagon by having Luthor address the nation on the issue.
One of the things surprised me when I came to this story was its lack of focus on the gay issue as the majority of both issues is more focused on Kyle’s reaction to the attack. However, this reaction is a very traditional superhero’s response to someone close to them being attacked i.e. the closeness of the attack causes them to almost loose their moral scruples.
These scenes are written well with Winick showing a definite change in the attitude of Kyle when he fights the three attackers. This change is also reflected in the art, which uses shadows more than other fights and less physical use of the ring. The choice of Batman to play conscience is inspired mainly due to the way Winick shows how Green Lantern does not want to become the type of hero that Batman is. The art also mirrors the traditional storytelling approach with a proficient, clean-cut style that whilst is good doesn’t carry the emotional punch that I’m sure many people when coming to this story wanted.
This traditionalism raises the question as to what Hate Crime wants to be. Winick in his introduction claims that this deals with the issues concerning homosexuality, which it doesn’t. Hate Crime instead does what comics have done since WW2, appropriate politics to act as motivation for their characters. Whilst he should be congratulated for including fully rounded, normal homosexual characters (unlike say Will & Grace) this is no more groundbreaking than the best issues of Claremont’s X-Men. Indeed when you place the story in the context of the stories it shares in the TPB Winick’s style is heavily reminiscent of Claremont with the same long-running sub plots, teaser battles with villains and one-shots where superheroes do everyday stuff. It’s a good read but nothing earth shattering and in many ways a wasted opportunity to properly tackle the gay issue.